A Rhyme in Time

Editor’s Note: We have received a number of questions from parents about their child’s inability to rhyme. In response to these concerns, we are posting the following email and reply.

“I was watching (a certain talk show) about children with learning disabilities, and the guest author diagnosed a student as disabled because he could not rhyme … I asked my son to name a word that rhymed with ‘cat.’ He replied, ‘car.’ … Should I be concerned that he cannot rhyme?”

Rhyming is one of the last auditory discrimination skills (the ability to differentiate between and among letter sounds) that an emergent reader develops. In fact, rhyming is not an ability that is automatically acquired – it is a skill that must be taught. If your son cannot rhyme, it may be because no one ever explained to him what the word “rhyme” means.

Webster defines rhyme as “a similarity of sounds of two or more words, esp. at the end of lines of poetry.” Given that loose definition, your son was right – “cat” and “car” do have similar sounds. To better clarify the term, you may want to explain to your son that it is the final or ENDING sounds of each word that must be the same. cAT, hAT, bAT, sAT … gO, tOe, hOe, knOw. (see below for a supplemental list of rhyming words.)

The Phonemic Awareness Process: Phonemic awareness is a child’s basic understanding that speech is composed of a series of individual sounds. The process goes something like this:

  • First, the child learns to recognize the initial sound – the sound of the first letter in a word.
  • Next, he will recognize the final or ending sound in a word.
  • Sometime during this process, he will begin to recognize the medial or middle sound.

An example of this process using the word “cat” would be as follows: first: /k/ which is the sound of the letter c; second: /t/ which is the sound of t; third: /a/ which is the short vowel sound of the letter a.

Lastly, he will begin to recognize the sounds of letter combinations: such as in the word “chirp” beginning /ch/ and ending /rp/.

If your son is doing well in other areas and just cannot grasp the concept of rhyming, give him some time. Rhyming is one of those developmental tasks that a child acquires when he is ready. In the meantime, tell him that he is “a number one son!”


In addition to reciting nursery rhymes, you may want to ask your local librarian for books with rhyming text. When playing your own rhyming games with your child, you may find the following list helpful:

  • bat, cat, rat, sat, fat, splat
  • day, play, say, way, clay
  • king, sing, fling, thing, wing
  • chop, drop, hop, shop
  • gate, plate, late
  • cake, shake, flake, take, make, awake
  • ice, mice, nice, rice
  • drip, ship, lip, slip, trip, snip
  • can, man, pan, tan
  • fill, hill, will, till, quill
  • cap, map, flap, tap, gap, lap, nap, rap

– End –


2 thoughts on “A Rhyme in Time”

  1. Deanna, depending upon his age and success in other areas of learning, sometimes being able to distinguish between and among ending sounds is just a matter of time. Give him a few months and try again.

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